Local high school students proved the play's the thing, earning high honors in the 34th Annual High School Shakespeare Competition last week at Southern Utah University.
"The High School Shakespeare Competition is the largest scholastic Shakespeare competition in the country," said Michael Don Bahr, festival education director, and a former drama teacher at Garland's Bear River High School. "This year, we had more participating schools than ever before."
Local big winners:
Jonathan McDonald, Northridge High School, Layton, won the Larry Lott Acting Award, in the Oxford division (schools of 1,701 to 2,000 enrollment). The award comes with a trophy, and for seniors like McDonald, a $1,000 scholarship to SUU.
"It was for a scene spliced together from different parts of 'Richard the III,' " said McDonald, 18, of Layton. "I played Richard, and the people he killed were tormenting him in his dreams.
"When they announced my name as a winner, it wasn't something I was expecting. It took me a while to hear what they said, then I jumped out of my seat and ran to the stage. It was a rush."
McDonald said he may attend SUU with the scholarship, to study acting but also pre-med.
"It's a really good acting program, and that would be a really fun thing to go into for my life, but I'm also considering being a doctor, and SUU graduates have a 95 percentage acceptance rate for medical schools."
Nathan Barton, Clearfield High School, was a technical theater portfolio winner in the Oxford division. He also won a $1,000 scholarship to SUU.
"My portfolio was based on lighting designs I had done in the last year and a half," said Barton, 18, of Syracuse. "I just moved here, and most of the portfolio was designs I did for lighting 'Arsenic and Old Lace' at Bingham High."
Barton was cheering for Bingham High friends named as award winners, and he missed the announcement of his own name.
"All of a sudden, everybody around me starts screaming, and I have no idea why," Barton said. "Then my director told me, 'Nate, you won.' I couldn't say anything. I walked down there and shook me some hands. It felt pretty good."
Barton said he is considering attending SUU and working with a lighting professor he met at the conference.
A.J. Nelson, Morgan High School, was a technical theater portfolio winner in the Westminster division (schools with 800 or fewer enrolled). He won a $1,000 scholarship to SUU.
"I was really shocked when they said my name," said Nelson, 17, of Morgan. "I had no idea what I was doing, and no one really helped me with my audio designs, to know how to make them. I just did what I thought would work best. I was really shocked and excited when they said my name."
The head of SUU's audio program praised the design.
"He said he was really impressed with what I had done," Nelson said. "He said it was really remarkable I could use such a small audio program to do such a big design."
Additional local students honored:
* Mackenzie Larsen, Box Elder High, Brigham City, won the Barbara Barrett Acting Award, Cambridge division (schools of 801 to 1,700 enrollment). The award comes with a $500 scholarship to next summer's Utah Shakespearean Festival Actor Training Program.
* Braden Brockbrader, DaVinci Academy, Ogden, won the people's choice award for fine arts. The award won him a $50 certificate for artist supplies.
* Davis High School, of Kaysville, won sweepstakes third place, in the Buckingham division (schools of 2,001 or more enrollment).
* Marissa Anderson and Danny Cowser, of Davis High, won third place for duo/trio, Buckingham division.
* Maddy Barney, Davis High, won third place for mono-acts, Buckingham division.
* Northridge High School, earned ensemble third place, Oxford division.
* Cameron Reinhart and Lanise Sepulveda, St. Joseph High School, Ogden, won third place for duo/trio, Westminster division.